By Hayley Croke
Every generation identifies with the films of their time. The 80s has John Hughes to thank, the 90s has Cher Horowitz to idolize, and the 2000s has Cady Heron to relate to. However, the 2017 film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel It is changing the idea of how a generation can be identified by a film.
Stephen King’s engaging thriller, It, follows a group of misfit middle schoolers in Derry, Maine, who are known as “The Losers’ Club”. The town of Derry faces a series of strange child disappearances. The Losers’ Club has a first-hand experience with this, as the little brother of one of the boys disappears without a trace. Throughout the next year, Derry is in a state of chaos as more and more children are reported missing every day. Soon, each member of The Losers’ Club begins to see their worst fears comes to light when they are isolated from the rest of the group. Each illusion of fear is then followed by the appearance of the horrifying Pennywise the Dancing Clown, played by Bill Skarsgård. The Losers’ Club begins to grow as three more outcasts undergo the same experience of being faced with their biggest fear. The rest of the film focuses on the kids’ investigation into the town’s mysterious history and finding out what has happened to the missing children of Derry.
The chemistry between the cast is extremely organic, making it seem as if they have been genuine friends their entire lives. The most remarkable part of Andy Muschietti’s directorial style was his decision to have the cast improvise the majority of the script. This adds a layer of authenticity screenwriters could not replicate. Muschietti even sent the core cast away on a camping trip to unplug from technology. All having been born and raised in cities, this allowed the cast to not only connect with each other but also with their childhood innocence. Muschietti worked extremely hard as well to keep Bill Skarsgård away from the children until they would shoot to ensure the most genuine reactions from the child actors. Since Pennywise gains his strength by feeding off of the fear from the children he encaptures, Skarsgård’s performance was all the more accurate as he would feed off the genuine fear of the young actors during each scene.
The popularity of the novel ensured high box office sales. It broke the record for the highest grossing R rated film opening weekend – a record previously held by 2016’s Deadpool. But why this movie? Why does it seem as if every person has seen It, regardless of its terrifying allure?
After all, It is a horror film. The audience experiences jolting moments, horrifying realizations, and even screams in fear. However, the film is not successful because of its horror factor. Senior Michael Poppo commented, “It is more than just a horror film. There are a lot of other subplots that have a lot more meaning. For example, the storyline with Beverly and her abusive father adds a sense of reality to a seemingly unrealistic film.” Coming into the film, I expected to see a lot of Pennywise as the marketing campaigns had advertised. I was pleasantly surprised, however, to see that the majority of the movie was focused on the development of the kids and their struggle to overcome the fear that Pennywise thrived off of.
Megan Sluzhevsky went to the midnight premiere of the film after having spent the end of last year reading the book. She said “this movie had the best of both worlds—horror that constantly keeps you on edge and a beautiful coming of age story that makes you remember your own childhood…The Losers’ Club members are funny, relatable, and pull at your heartstrings.” Her comments tie back to the idea of a generation being identified by a film. Megan says the story of The Losers’ Club makes the audience remember their own childhood at the character’s age. Interestingly, both the novel and film are set in 1989, but today’s students of Byram Hills are able to relate to the kids of Derry. Has any generation ever experienced similar tribulations with a psychopathic, fear-driven clown? Of course not. But society has constantly faced fear-enticing obstacles where there has been the choice to either face one’s fear or perish in one’s wake. Much like The Losers’ Club, society tries to make the choice to face them and take away their power by being brave.
Is It a story that will represent the 80s or the 2010s? I believe It will transcend labeling a generation altogether. It holds a universal story of maturing that can be felt regardless of what generation you were born in, much like other films used to identify generations. At the end of the day, when the 80s were over, John Hughes films still inspired many other generations of girls to wear homemade pink dresses to prom. When the 90s ended, yellow plaid miniskirts did not completely vanish from girls’ wardrobes. When the 2000s came to a close, the issues brought to light at North Shore High School were not completely solved. And I can certainly say by the year 2040, people will still shutter at the sight of a red balloon.